Prime Minister Gaston Browne is disappointed that Health and Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph has changed his mind in being part of a climate change programme testing electric vehicles in Antigua and Barbuda and wants him to reconsider his decision.
The country, which is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, has agreed to use clean technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. As a result, the Environment Ministry sought funding for electric and hybrid vehicles for a feasibility study to be presented to the Cabinet and for a project proposal to the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility.
After news broke that a Tesla Model X, electric vehicle, came into the country for use by the minister, there was an outcry in several quarters, including the opposition.
The United Progressive Party (UPP) felt purchasing the vehicle, which costs about US $100,000, was ‘heartless’ given the current economic crisis facing the twin-island state. After the controversy over the vehicle, Joseph decided that he was no longer interested in being a part of the programme.
However, Prime Minister Browne said Minister Joseph is not in need of a luxury SUV since he owns several vehicles.
He said Joseph using the vehicle was a means to get others to emulate him, and eventually turn in their gas guzzling vehicles for energy efficient ones.
“My understanding is it is part of a project to promote the use of green energy vehicles/ electric vehicles as we seek to reduce our carbon footprint. Now, I know that the minister does not need a vehicle, it’s not no vanity of the minister in which he is trying to get an expensive vehicle, he has many vehicles, he is the owner of many private vehicles. All that has happened is the ministry officials they encourage him to use one of those vehicles so he can be a sponsor of the programme and to get other people to emulate him.
“Unfortunately the minister has gotten a bit of cold feet and has decided he does not want it…in truth he does not need it, but it would be good for him to have it…to be one of the sponsors of the programme and I just hope he would reconsider his position,” Browne said.
The prime minister said the government is serious about climate change and has to make sure that the country meets its commitments based on the climate accord.
PM Browne emphasised the fact that the vehicle did not cost the government any money, but was obtained through a grant.
“We have certain obligations to meet and not only are we transitioning to green energy to power Antigua and Barbuda, as you know we did this 10 mega watts solar power initiative and we are also doing something similar in Barbuda as well. What we are seeking to do now as well is the transitioning to electric vehicles in order to reduce our carbon foot print.
“My understanding is the Ministry of Environment has gotten certain grant facilities which they have utilised to acquire some electric vehicles as we seek to start that transition. And I am told they had earmarked one of the vehicles for the minister of health and the environment because they wanted him to lead by example as one of the sponsors of the programme. If you give it to a low profile person it does not help, I mean he is the highest profile person within the ministry (of health),” Browne added.
According to the prime minister, some people put a political spin on everything, and added, “I can understand why he did not want to touch it because of the cheap politics that has been played by the opposition.”
The Ministry of Environment also plans on purchasing a small Nissan Leaf, a Nissan van, an open back “lorry” and one Toyota Rav 4 Hybrid.
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